Published September 30, 2016
HOQUIAM, WASHINGTON – The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Westway Terminal Company’s proposed crude-by-rail facility at the Port of Grays Harbor was released today amidst widespread opposition and calls for the City of Hoquiam to deny a permit. After a successful challenge to the original permit, this FEIS has gone through public review with overwhelming opposition. This is the final review stop before the City of Hoquiam can make a permit decision.
The Quinault Indian Nation, commercial fishing interests, local residents and conservation groups are still reviewing the FEIS and will be looking for it to more fully acknowledge the severity of the potential impacts that cannot be mitigated. The draft study underestimated impacts, which include increased risk of derailment, collision, fire and explosion from oil trains, oil spills from rail transport, storage and marine transport by barge and tanker in Grays Harbor, and impacts on tribal resources, including fisheries and fishing access.
“If the study provides a true account of risks to the safety, economy and way of life of tribal members and our Grays Harbor neighbors, the City of Hoquiam will have a clear and defensible choice to deny a permit.” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN). “The city has a responsibility to keep our communities and shared waters safe and productive, not put them at risk from oil train derailments and oil spills.”
“Our members agree with the judgement of the Washington Attorney General who opposed a proposed oil terminal along the Columbia River after weighing the benefits against the risks of an oil spill. We believe the same is true in Grays Harbor,” said Larry Thevik, Vice-President of the WA Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association. “We all know these terminals carry grave risks. A better path than crude oil is to protect and build on our strengths like commercial and recreational fisheries, shellfish aquaculture and tourism.”
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife stated “Grays Harbor is an area particularly sensitive to the adverse effects of oil spills.” Grays Harbor and surrounding waters support nearly 700 tribal and more than 3,000 non-tribal commercial fishing jobs. A recent study by the Greater Grays Harbor Chamber of Commerce found nearly 6,000 tourism-related jobs in the County.
“Clean beaches, birds and wildlife, scenic beauty and recreation opportunities are not only some of our most important economic assets, they also the reasons many of us choose to live, work and play in Grays Harbor County,” said Arnie Martin, President of Grays Harbor Audubon. “We know from experiences like the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico that one major oil spill is one too many.”
The Grays Harbor Wildlife Refuge is visited by hundreds of thousands of shorebirds annually. In 1989, the Nestucca barge holed off Grays Harbor spilling 231,000 gallons of marine bunker oil, killing or injuring an estimated 68,000 seabirds. The oil sheen was seen from Oregon to the Strait of Juan De Fuca.
The fiery oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon was a dramatic demonstration of the far reaching dangers of crude-by-rail proposals in the Northwest. Oil trains bound for Grays Harbor would travel through communities along the rail line from Hoquiam to Chehalis and through Vancouver, the Columbia River Gorge and Spokane.
“These proposals a huge step backwards – they risk irrevocable harm to our communities and waterways and take us in the in the wrong direction for our climate,” said Rebecca Ponzio, director of the Stand Up To Oil campaign. “People across the Pacific Northwest have spoken: don’t sacrifice our health, livelihoods, and resources for the benefit of the oil industry.”
In a September 7 letter to the Washington Dept. of Ecology and City of Hoquiam leaders, the Quinault Indian Nation summarized the strong legal grounds the city has for denying a permit under the State Environmental Policy Act, Public Trust Doctrine that protects access and resource use of publicly owned navigable waters and tidelands, and the Quinault’s federally-reserved treaty fishing and gathering rights.
Washington State faces a proliferation of proposals for fossil fuel infrastructure—notably coal export and oil transport, as well as an expansion of oil by rail to existing refineries. If these proposals move forward, the region’s rail system face extreme strain and a significant increase in the amount of oil tanker traffic through Washington waters is expected.
While several projects have recently been defeated or withdrawn, significant proposals remain in play. In addition to the Longview and Grays Harbor proposals, Tesoro-Savage – the largest proposed oil by rail facility in North America – and one other terminal, NuStar, are proposed in Vancouver, WA. There is also a proposal to increase the oil-by-rail capacity of the Shell Oil Refinery in Anacortes.